Abbotsford school board. Dustin Godfrey/Abbotsford News file photo

Abbotsford school board. Dustin Godfrey/Abbotsford News file photo

Abby Schools

Maternity leaves stall Abbotsford French immersion applications

School district anticipates seven full-time vacancies, including two currently unresolved vacancies

An “extraordinary number” of maternity leaves has the Abbotsford School District scrambling to fill several vacancies in order to be able to admit new students into French immersion.

In a report to the school board, Superintendent Kevin Godden said applications for French immersion kindergarten and late French immersion have been put on hold “pending the availability of qualified teachers.”

The shortage of French-speaking teachers available for French immersion has been an ongoing issue throughout Canada, and B.C. and Abbotsford have been no exceptions. However, a new factor altogether is causing troubles for next year’s French immersion enrolment.

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Godden wrote in a school board report that an “extraordinary” rate of maternity leaves, along with two current unfilled vacancies, have left the school district in a lurch when it comes to French immersion teachers.

“Our projection suggests that we could have upward of seven fewer French immersion teachers in the system next year than now,” Godden told the board Tuesday evening.

“What that means is if we need to protect the integrity of the program for the kids who are already in it, who have made the commitment and perhaps are in Grade 5, what we need to be able to do is to make sure we can provide education to those kids. The place where we cannot, then, make a full commitment is for families trying to get in.”

He continued: “It is entirely possible we will not accept any new students into French immersion next year, unless we can deal with the recruitment challenge. Now, having said that, the priority, if we do have space, are for the siblings of kids who are in French immersion.”

That’s bad news for more than 100 families who have expressed an interest in registering their child with the district’s online lottery system for French immersion. However, Godden did express some level of optimism.

“We are continuing to be aggressive in our recruitment. That’s our first message: We’re not going to sit back and allow the circumstance to unfold without giving it our best attempt to try to get qualified French immersion teachers here,” Godden said.

“It’s not good news overall, but we will do our level best to accommodate.”

Last November, parents complained that their children enrolled in French immersion were being taught in English due to a lack of French-speaking teachers at Sandy Hill Elementary School.

At a school board meeting, parents demanded the school district take action to remedy the issue.

They were assured by school district officials that the Grade 4 French teacher vacancy would be filled by early December, and that the district was trying all avenues to hire French immersion teachers.

Godden told trustees that vacancy has now been filled.

Find more of our coverage on the Abbotsford School District here.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

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